License management still a big business

Summary:Even with the danger of the SCO case fading, license management is proving to be a vital niche in the open source universe. Proof comes with today's announcement that former Sun chief marketing and strategy officer Mark Tolliver is the new CEO of Palamida, a license compliance service.

Even with the danger of the SCO case fading, license management is proving to be a vital niche in the open source universe. Proof comes with today's announcement that former Sun chief marketing and strategy officer Mark Tolliver is the new CEO of Palamida, a license compliance service. (The picture is courtesy the University of Illinois, from which Tolliver graduated in 1973.)

Palamida charges corporate IT shops $50-250,000 per year to track the legal status of their code, based on a spidered database. The company calls this "automated software intellectual property (IP) management and compliance."

Tolliver told ZDNet he saw the need for something like this while he was general manager and president of iPlanet, the Sun-Netscape alliance from 1999-2002.  "We had a team see what was in there Netscape's IP, what the licenses were, and figure out how to deal with open source components. We wanted intellectual property up to snuff. And I had to sit in many reviews, saying there has to be a better way. There was no commercial tool for this."

Tolliver calls Palamida a "transparency mechanism" that tracks the ownership of algorithms and their license terms. It's both a database and a search engine, in that it spiders repositories of open source code, detecting binaries as well as source code, and categorizing them. The spider even looks inside Java namespaces. Palamida's code was written in Java, Tolliver says.

Palamida has many great opportunities in front of it, he adds. "Right now we’re focused on detection, helping with transparency. But as we look forward there will be a day where people will supply with their software some of these fingerprints, these signatures" proving originality which Palamida's spider can detect. "So if you want to embed my software in yours, I might ask you to run a scan and show me where my code is being used. There are opportunities of that nature going forward.

"As software development moves from in-house to a mixture of in-house, outsource, open source and vendor code, with many sources of code blended into the final product, you have to be concerned about acting responsibly toward the people who provided all that code," he concludes.

What do you think? How big does your shop need to be before something like this becomes vital? Let us know in TalkBack.

Topics: Software Development

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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